Sunday, August 30, 2009

We need more hospice facilities not fewer!

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Pat Simmons letter (‘Its not sentimental, but practical to keep hospice’, Open Lines, Friday August 28) was absolutely spot on – and was also very moving. Wanting to keep a fantastic facility like St Peter’s Hospice open in Knowle is indeed about practicalities not sentiment. As Pat points out the location of St Peter’s enabled easy and fast access for her (it has done for many over the years). We need more of such facilities not fewer. I’m afraid we cannot currently regard health provision in Britain as fully ‘cradle to grave’ - but this is what we need.

Like Pat I’m also very puzzled by the sudden-ness and speed of the decision. It was announced in the media and now we are, very sadly, already close to the point of complete closure. Little or no broad-based consultation was, as far as I am aware, sought or undertaken by those taking the decision at St Peter’s – yet they are funded by public donations and do receive large sums for some of their work from the NHS.

Despite a very well supported petition ( ) and public meeting on the matter there is no sign of them changing their minds or even delaying to re-examine their options and talk properly with the wider community and with elected representatives about funding, keeping the Knowle facility open or establishing an alternative locally.

It strange to me that no fundraising campaign was launched. I cannot understand how a building relatively recently refurbished - in the late 1990’s I think – now needs so much spent on it. Was the refurbishment badly done? Has planned maintenance not be properly carried out?

I very strongly support getting away from ever-larger, more centralised institutions. I thought St Peter’s supported this thinking. However, it does not look this way now and South Bristol, lacking in health facilities already, may lose a valuable asset. If it can be established and widely agreed that the Knowle site is too big an annual drain on resources why not invest the considerable income that would result from the sale of the site in a new local facility?

I worry that this may well be a case of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone’.

Significant stats (2): UK population reached 61.4 million in 2008

No comments:
...having grown 408,000 in the previous year at a rate of 0.7%. More than two million people have been added to the UK population in the last seven years, and our numbers have increased by more than a fifth since 1950 - in less than a lifetime, in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. At a recent growth rate of 0.6% a year, population would reach 100 million before the end of this century, passing 200 million soon after 2200. The most recent projections exceeded the previous four: on 23 October 2007 2006-based population projections released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed expected population growth of nearly 17 million (more than two Londons) to 77.2 million in 2050, and on 19 November 2008 migration figures for 2007 revealed a near record net inward flow of 237,000 people, pushing up population growth to a staggering 434,554. Although a third* of the public believe population growth to be the most serious threat to the future wellbeing of Britain, no political party has a clear policy to reverse it. Act now. Call for an population policy - stabilisation and gradual decrease by 2050. See Fertility, Migration, OPT Policies, OPT Population policy projections and Briefings and Submissions for population policy alternatives.

(The above from the Optimum Population Trust).

More on the issue:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sustainable Knowle, neighbourhood transition group: origins, plans, hopes, fears…

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If not me, then who? If not now, then when? Its been like that with me all through my adult life, thus my involvement in forming and coordinating Sustainable Knowle, a neighbourhood Transition group working for sustainability and improved quality of life in Bristol.

As well as working for Green political change I want to be part of creating moves towards sustainability now. The Transition movement is about working with others to create such change in the local community and so last year I placed this pledge ‘I will start a group called the Campaign for the Achievement of a Sustainable Knowle (CASK) in my area of Bristol but only if 10 other local people will do the same.’ on the PledgeBank website I gave the pledge a year to gain support but in less than half that time it was successful and Sustainable Knowle was formed.

Sustainable Knowle aims to assess the local area and establish exactly what changes are needed to make it environmentally and socially sustainable. It wants to find effective and practical ways to achieve those changes in the interest of the security, stability and quality of life. These are likely to include: much better cycling and pedestrian provision; protecting, enhancing and if possible increasing open, green, natural spaces; the retention and improvement of locally available facilities, services, and jobs; education for sustainable living; local energy saving and the micro-generation of energy; more local, ethical and organic food availability; home and allotment grown food; higher land, air, water and environmental quality; people taking personal responsibility to be more environmentally-friendly; broad based public participation in community life…

The group made somewhat gradual beginnings in terms of face to face meeting, with a few people meeting informally for coffee initially. Regular meetings are now ongoing though, the group has a website ( and is building links. Areas of activity have been and are: input into the council’s green space plans; campaigning to stop a local pub from being turned into a Tesco Express; litter picking; input into council consultations on environmental noise; support for the 20’s Plenty campaign for a default 20mph speed limit….

We have grown from 10 to 16 in number and hope for more publicity and growth. Sustaining activity when we all have family and work commitments has be an ongoing concern for us though – what we do is sensitive to slight changes in the personal circumstances of a relatively small number. We hope that more specific projects will get off the ground and spark others. Resources, physical and financial, are a constraint though – we are short of time compared to the opportunities and to the amount of work to be done!! We each need and want balanced lives but also need and want to work for positive overall green outcomes, both measured and judged. Relative unresponsiveness and the lack of coherent plans on an adequate scale from councils and Government is not helping the transition to sustainability however – people are ahead of the politicians!!

[This article originally appeared, edited slightly, in The Spark magazine earlier this summer]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ask three questions, get zero answers!! A perfect combination of ignorance and dismissiveness!!

I've been investigating the environmental decision making surrounding the introduction of corn starch bags into Bristol's food waste recycling system for a while. Recently I put the three questions below to the Cabinet. I received just one response - and that did not give the information requested!

The figures given by Cllr Hopkins are certainly not carbon footprint figures and I am still looking into what they actually imply. He completely ignores my second question about other environmental impacts (carbon footprints make up less than half the total environmental impact of a product). He also completely ignores my third question which asks about economic as well as environmental assessment. Despite not backing anything he says with anything like full and accurate facts Cllr Hopkins still asserts 'this shows that there will be an overall positive impact to the environment.'!! A perfect combination of ignorance and dismissiveness.

C3. Glenn Vowles to ask Gary Hopkins, Executive Member for Environment and Community Safety

Environmental decision making and corn starch bags

In a debate on Cllr Bolton’s blog I said ‘…the decision on the [corn starch] bags has been taken without full information being sought! This is irrational. Environmental decision making should be put on a firm evidence-based process. This has not been done by any party running the council…’ to which you Cllr Hopkins replied ‘I do not base my judgements on guesses but on evidence’. My subsequent request for data on the total environmental impacts of the corn starch bags in this debate was not replied to and so I doubt that full information has in fact been sought.

Q1. What figures does the council have for the carbon footprint of these corn starch bags, in order to assess whether they more than make up for their carbon cost?

Q2. What figures does the council have for any other environmental costs the corn starch bags may have eg water footprint, land take, biodiversity impacts?

Q3. Can you outline if/how you intend to quantitatively and fully assess the net effects of corn starch bag introduction: on the environment; on the economics of waste management for Bristol?

C3. Reply:
For the plans we have regarding potential roll out of corn starch liners across Bristol, the environmental costs of liner production is summarised as:
- 45t of bags will need to divert 540t - 1125t of organic waste from landfill to make the CO2 equivalent net saving, which will require approximately 3% increase in organic recycling. This is a very realistic estimate.

In summary this shows that there will be an overall positive impact to the environment.

For clarity, this calculation does not take into account the further expected reduction in waste arisings, as previous evidence has shown that when residents start recycling food waste for the first time, they are surprised at the amount they throw away which tends to make them reduce their waste in the future.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Significant stat (1): 16% of 16-24 yr olds not in education, training or employment

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Abject Labour Govt failure - official figures show that one in six 16 to 24 yr olds (959,000 people) are NEETs (not in education, employment or training). The numbers of young people not working or in school, college or university have been on the rise for some time and are now at record levels - they are 100,000 higher this year than last year. They may well rise further (and pass the 1 million mark) within months.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Support the petition asking the Prime Minister to apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing for being gay that led to his untimely death

No comments: - signed this petition today after seeing a story in The Independent detailing Richard Dawkins call for an apology for Turing. The petition details say...

Alan Turing was the greatest computer scientist ever born in Britain. He laid the foundations of computing, helped break the Nazi Enigma code and told us how to tell whether a machine could think.

He was also gay. He was prosecuted for being gay, chemically castrated as a 'cure', and took his own life, aged 41.

The British Government should apologize to Alan Turing for his treatment and recognize that his work created much of the world we live in and saved us from Nazi Germany. And an apology would recognize the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man's life and career.

Bristol Schumacher Conference 2009: From the ashes of the crash - Rebuilding with the new economics

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Received this from the Schumacher Society:

Following on from the success of last year's Bristol Schumacher Conference, LESS IS MORE Can We Really Live Better By Consuming Less? chaired byJonathon Porritt, this year we are partnering with the New Economics Foundation (nef) and keeping a similar format - three lectures and 2x four workshops.

The Conference will take place at the Council House on Saturday 17 October 2009 - some details are below.

It is advisable to book in advance as last year was sold out before the day.

We would be most grateful if you could forward this email and attached leaflet to any contacts you think might be interested.

FFI or to book tickets:
Tel 0117 903 1081

We do hope you will join us for an inspiring day of lectures and workshopswith such leading edge speakers on such a timely subject.

Laura Hamilton
Schumacher Society marketing volunteer
The Schumacher Society
The Create Environment Centre
Smeaton Road
Tel: 0117 9031081

Bristol Schumacher Conference 2009

FROM THE ASHES OF THE CRASH - Rebuilding with the new economics
Saturday 17 October 2009 Council House, Bristol, BS1 5TR

CHAIR Stewart Wallis - nef Executive Director


Dr. Jayati Ghosh - Professor of Economics, New Delhi

Andrew Simms - nef Policy Director

Stacy Mitchell - Researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, USA


a. David Boyle (editor, Radical Economics)
Reinventing money

b.. John Christensen (Tax Justice Network uk)
The attack on democracy: tax havens as the engines of chaos

c. Liz Cox (nef) & Ciaran Mundy (Transition Bristol)
Transition to a low carbon high well being future

d. Nick Robins (HSBC), James Vaccaro (Triodos) & Mark Mansley (Rathbone Greenbank Investments)
Investing in a low carbon economy

Guest Artist Rory McLeod


The Schumacher Society in partnership with nef (new economics foundation)
Sponsors Rathbone Greenbank Investments & Triodos Bank
FFI & tickets
Tel 0117 903 1081

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who supports a new BCFC stadium if funded by selling Ashton Gate to Tesco??

Very, very interesting - and highly convenient - assertion by Bristol City FC Chief Executive Colin Sexstone reported in todays Post. He asserts that there is a 'silent majority' in favour of the proposed new Bristol City stadium funded by selling the Ashton Gate ground to Tesco. There is little or no evidence to support this assertion that I'm aware of. By definition we dont know the
view(s) those who are silent hold !!!

Bearing in mind that there are many people who dont want our green belt built over, good numbers may still support a new stadium for Bristol City - but not at the cost of having a Tesco at Aston Gate!! My supporting evidence? Number who have to date signed the petition against Tesco at Ashton Gate 772 - number who have signed the petition in support of Tesco at Ashton gate 105.

If there is a 'silent majority' in favour of or against anything, anywhere I'd urge them to get as involved as they possibly can, getting together with like-minded people where appropriate -politicians and other decision makers at all levels have been left to get on with things far too much and would benefit greatly from high levels of public scrutiny and participation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bristol's green belt: protected? Or disappearing under mass house building, another major road, a new football stadium and an expanded airport?

1 comment:
Many are campaigning for the green belt around Bristol to be protected and to mean something! There are various threats: many, many thousands of houses; the ring road; expanding the airport; building a new footbal stadium...Here's the response I got from Bristol City Council's Lib Dem Cabinet to two questions I recently put:

C2. Glenn Vowles to ask Jon Rogers Executive Member for Transport and Sustainability

Development on green belt land

Q1. Should large scale development be permitted on green belt land around Bristol, whether the development impinges on green belt in whole or part?

C2.Q1 Reply:
The issue of use of Green Belt is a complex one. My colleagues and I have campaigned and won in the recent election with a pledge to “fight the loss of Green Belt” and that remains our policy.

We are also considering the Multi-Area Agreement MAA at the meeting today, and you will see our heavily caveated concerns about the possible imposition of a Regional Spatial Strategy RSS, requiring development with which we would not agree. In particular, the housing targets in the draft RSS from the Secretary of State do not appear to be backed by evidence. These are concerns shared with our neighbouring authorities, and we need to be very mindful that such decisions could be taken out of our control.

We have repeatedly stated that we wish to develop urban sites and brownfield sites and avoid development on Green Belt. All developments need to be of the best sustainable design and infrastructure.

It is also important that the Bristol Development Framework BDF gets approved (which it'll only do if it articulates with the RSS) as without it, we have 12 year old development control policies which say nothing about sustainability.

Officers have asked that I point out that development on the Green Belt is guided by national, regional and local policy. Regional planning guidance sets the framework for Green Belt policy, including the direction of long term development. Government guidance set out in PPG2: Green Belts considers that once the general extent of Green Belt has been approved it should only be altered in exceptional circumstances.

The Council is producing a series of planning documents known as the Bristol Development Framework which will guide development over the next 20 years. The Core Strategy is the first of these documents and it must be in conformity with the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). The RSS proposes urban extensions within the Green Belt to the south east and south west of Bristol to help meet the housing requirements of the sub region. These proposals include allocations of 1,500 dwellings within the City boundaries as part of the wider extensions. Therefore, the City Council has to plan for these areas in the Core Strategy.

If the requirement for urban extensions remains in the final version of the RSS then the land required to accommodate the urban extensions will be removed from the Green Belt. The specific areas of Green Belt required to accommodate the urban extensions will be identified on the proposals map accompanying the Site Allocations Development Plan Document. The remaining areas will be protected in the Core Strategy Green Belt policy from inappropriate development (as defined in Planning Policy Guidance 2: Green Belts). The acceptability of development within the Green Belt will depend on the use and form of the proposal as assessed in relation to policy.

Sounds very much like a lot of our green belt will be built over and degraded if national and regional govt get their way.

Q2. If development is permitted on green belt land should the developers plans and designs be required to compensate as much as is practically possible for all the environmental impacts they cause eg through maximising the use of green design, green technology and green schemes?

C2.Q2 Reply:
Yes. Where development in the green belt is found to be acceptable in principle, it will be required to meet the standards of the development plan. The emerging policies set out in the Core Strategy will require development to be built to high environmental standards, maximising energy efficiency and contributing to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Any negative impacts associated with development will require mitigation in accordance with policy requirements.

Its noteworthy that this second answer applies a different - and much lower - standard than the one I refer to in my question. Compensating as much as is practically possible is most certainly not what would result from meeting the standards of the development plan or Core Strategy!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Invest in stronger regions and local communities rather than subsidise Bristol Airport expansion

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Letter objecting to the application to expand Bristol International Airport sent today:

The forecasting process that is behind the planning application to expand Bristol International Airport (ref 09/P/1020/OT2) is highly inaccurate and in any case the wrong approach to take. Projections of passenger numbers look increasingly ridiculous in the light of both economic and environmental contexts. Government is in denial as they persist with their forecast figures for more flying, modified only slightly. Generally the air travel industry is, in contrast, more realistic: in the last year or so numbers using UK airports fell by 6.4 million (13%) according to Civil Aviation Authority figures; the head of easyJet, Andy Harrison, told journalist and campaigner George Monbiot that ‘there was no point in expanding airports outside the south-east because the demand wouldn’t materialise’.

The forecasting process and plans for airport expansion are hopelessly out of tune with environmental targets. In the Climate Change Act the UK sets a target of reducing carbon emissions from 1990 levels by at least 80% by 2050 – this reduction cannot be achieved if we keep expanding air travel. Such legislation, if it is to mean anything in practice, means we should be backcasting instead of forecasting, that is plan out how to achieve the scenario that is necessary and desirable by working back to determine the actions we need to take from now. Bristol airport flights already produce a ‘city scale’ half a millions tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions which we should be reducing eg by refusing planning permission to expand airport capacity.

Bristol International Airport already has significant negative impacts on people, the economy and the environment. Noise levels and noise event frequency should be cut from current levels. Parking in the green belt for cars is already significant, money lost to the region is high as many more people take their money abroad to spend than arrive here to spend (£700 million per yr is lost in UK as a whole), traffic levels on local roads are already at far too high a level. All of this points to refusing planning permission for airport expansion and moving to a different, green pattern of economic and social development focussed on building strong regions and local communities.

Many in the industry feel the 13% drop in numbers using UK airports is not just a short term trend and that expansion plans are thus not viable. Airport operator BAA has delayed its plans for a second runway at Stansted for example. British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair want BAA reduce the £900m Gatwick upgrade because they have serious doubts about the business case. National and regional government has been attempting to accelerate any natural trend for people to fly more despite its warm words on fighting climate change. In the past ten years government agencies have spent £80m on helping private enterprise to increase the number of flights. The South West Regional Development Agency has spent £19m on extending the airport terminals at Bristol and Bournemouth, aircraft parking at Exeter and airport works at Plymouth and Newquay. This has encouraged people to fly – and at the same time government have allowed train travel to become far too expensive and lacking in the most efficient technology. Its time this pattern of subsidy for air travel is reversed and with the South West Regional development Agency saying ‘The relationship between high growth sectors in the region and air travel appears to be weak’ and with their board agreeing not ‘to make any further investment in airports for the purpose of increased passenger capacity’ perhaps they are on board for another, greener pattern of development now.

The economics of expanding air travel are dubious eg in 2007, before the airline crisis began, total air transport turnover in the UK was £20bn. Aviation accounted for 0.78% of total business turnover, a smaller proportion than the machinery rental sector, according to government statistics!! The chief executive of the International Air Transport Association was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Business habits are changing and corporate travel budgets have been slashed. Video conferencing is now a stronger competitor.” This comment is in tune with building a more sustainable future – be part of this by refusing the application to expand Bristol International Airport.

Safer Medicines Campaign: scientifically compare animal experimentation against human biology-based tests

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I sent a postcard from the Safer Medicines Campaign to my MP Kerry McCarthy today. This campaign is an independent patient safety organisation of doctors and scientists whose concern is whether animal testing, today, is more harmful than helpful to public health and safety. [Their] goal is to protect human health by promoting human-specific medical research. The wording on the postcard is as follows:

Please sign EDM 569, which calls for an unprecedented comparison of currently required animal tests with a set of human biology-based tests, to see which is more predictive of safety for patients.

EDM 569 does not seek to ban any animal tests but merely to assess them scientifically.

A million Britons are hospitalised by prescription medicines every year, costing the NHS £2 billion (Sarah Boseley, The Guardian, 3 April 2008). These figures must be improved. There is evidence that human biology-based technologies may be more predictive of safety for humans: hence the need for a scientific comparison.

The End of the Line: major film on the impact of overfishing

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Received from Wilf Mound, Bristol Greenpeace:

"THE END OF THE LINE" - NO FISH after 2048 ?

£3:50p Box Office: 0117 927 5100

Rupert Murray UK '09 Ihr 26mins Imagine an ocean without fish. The first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing, The End of the Line examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna brought on by increasing Western demand for sushi, the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish, and the profound implications of a future world with no fish which could come as soon as 2048.

Filmed across the world - from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market -featuring top scientists, indigenous fishermen and fisheries enforcement officials, this disturbing and powerful film is a wake-up call to the world. Introduced by Wilf Mound, Chair of Bristol Greenpeace group. T= 0117 927 6322

PLEASE ONLY eat sustainably caught fish

CALL on politicians to respect the science* and cut the fishing fleets

JOIN the campaign for Marine Reserves and responsible fishing



The Ocean's resources can no longer be regarded as limitless –

"THE END OF THE LINE" examines what we are doing in our relentless technology-efficient quest to catch some fish, and points the finger at the politicians, corporations & chefs who are to blame.

*eg: Boris WORM et al "Impacts of Biodiversity loss on Ocean Ecosystem services" [SCIENCE V314 No 5800 pp787-790 3rd NOV 2006];

& GRAHAM, EVANS & RUSS "The effects of marine reserve protection on the trophic relationships of reef fishes on the Great Barrier Reef [Environmental Conservation (2003) 30:200-208 Cambridge University Press ].

Monday, August 10, 2009

20's Plenty for Us: new blog site

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New Blog site from the 20's Plenty for Us campaign which is 'working with local campaigns throughout the UK to implement 20 mph as the correct speed limit for residential streets.' They will be using this Blog for the various comments made to campaigns during their work.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Loss of quality of life in Redcatch Rd/Axbridge Rd/Friendship Rd neighbourhood

Its already been reported that Tesco's application to build a car park over part of the Friendship Inn garden was finally given planning permission by Bristol City Council. The pub will now rapidly be converted to a Tesco Express. Based on the rough notes I made this is what I said in person to the planning committee in addition to my written statement:

Here we are again. A whole range of people in very large numbers have expressed concern and opposition. Council strategies state the aim of improving neighbourhood quality of life and building a greener city but this plan, which would worsen both, could be given permission! You can ensure this does not happen by refusing permission.

Here we go again in a period when people want real and proper democracy (government by the people for the people) after expenses scandals that have brought politics in general to an even lower ebb than usual. Really listen to the people and you do your bit to boost politics. Really listen to the people and you'd reject this plan.

I note that members of the public dont get equal time and facilities when responding to planning applications compared to councillors and officers. I note that very often developers get lots of time and access to officers and councillors about their plans (including in this case, where inferior plans went back and forth between the council and Tesco) - this should give this committee all the more reason to give real weight to the number and range of people opposed to this plan from the public.

The councillors on the committee did not listen to the people - those from Labour (Sean Beynon and Colin Smith) gave particular support to Tesco's plans . Planning rules are truly out of date and badly out of tune with council policies, especially on quality of life and sustainability. The committee made their decision on a very narrow basis indeed, paying little or no heed to the context of the application and implications of giving permission. Another neighbourhood will lose quality of life and green character as a result and Knowle's local shopping will be disrpted by a giant supermarket chain with an anti-competitive attitude. It may not end here because several local people are wondering what plans Tesco might have for that part of the pub garden that wont be covered by the car park (room for expansion? room for a petrol station? room for...?).